It was one of those days that showed promise of joy and fulfillment as a glorious, warm, and sunny spring day arrived and the cold thaw vanished in Seattle.
Meanwhile record crowd of 36,273 was on hand to watch the Sounders test the unbeaten Los Angeles Galaxy. The Galaxy arrived at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field with an almost spotless 19 out of 21 points. Only a tie on the road with Kansas City impaired otherwise perfection.
The final score dampened early enthusiasm as the Western Conference-leading Galaxy cemented its top pedestal spot with a convincing 4-0 triumph.
On the strategy end, Seattle Sounders FC had looked speedy and confident on the attack one week earlier against a strong Columbus Crew team in a 1-1 deadlock that the home team almost won, so Coach Sigi Schmid opted to go with the same 4-3-3 deployment that had been effective then with Freddie Ljungberg posted in the key middle midfield slot.
When it was announced that the visitors would deploy a 4-5-1 scheme, speculation emerged that with but one attacking forward that perhaps the Galaxy, cognizant of the difficulty of winning in Seattle with the enthusiastic crowd a sturdy component, was perhaps employing a Katy-bar-the-door safety first, defensive-oriented strategy designed to emerge with a scoreless deadlock and one point.
Sigi Schmid later commented that the Galaxy were actually using a 4-4-2 format with another forward dropping back.
Conservative play was clearly not the strategy, as Los Angeles moved with brisk efficiency in handing Seattle its most lopsided home loss in its history. It tied the overall record as the Sounders lost last season to San Jose by an identical 4-0 margin.
Pre-match speculation revolved around Galaxy star forward and the league leading scorer Edson Buddle. At the end of the day the superstar that shone above all others was the league’s assist leader, Landon Donovan, who enjoyed the kind of afternoon that soccer players dream of having at least once in their careers.
Of the four goals that the Galaxy scored, dominating Donovan notched three assists to move him up to an impressive nine for the season.
Why not a fourth assist? Donovan had anticipated scoring his first goal of the season in a campaign when he had been feeding MLS scoring leader Buddle.
On this the perfect day for Donovan, and with his team well ahead 3-0, was it not logical for him therefore to garner that first goal and close out the scoring for his team at 4-0?
The first goal of the afternoon at the 22nd minute mark figures to be one of the most discussed of the season. It was notched by veteran Jovan Kiroski on the first of Donovan’s three assists.
Kiroski gained recognition for being the first American to be signed by Manchester United. Is it symbolic that a former Manchester United player now performs for a team that is the MLS current version of the dominant franchise from England’s Midlands?
Sounders commentator Arlo White called the Kiroski goal a “sucker punch.” Visibly angry Sounders' goalkeeper Kasey Keller would surely agree. The Kiroski kick contained a staggering amount of swerve as it darted toward the right corner of the net, deflecting off the diving Keller’s hand.
It was the kind of jolting kick that alerted the Sounders that this was not to be their day.
The first half ended at 1-0 and Seattle had launched some attacks, and were thwarted by numerous offside calls. There remained the promise of a win, but those thoughts were dampened once the Galaxy onslaught commenced.
L.A. took charge in the 52nd minute. Omar Gonzalez scored his first MLS goal by heading in a Donovan corner kick. The omnipresent Donovan had haunted the Sounders again.
Just minutes later Donovan drove a free kick to Todd Dunivant, who headed the ball past Keller and into the net.
On a day when everything was going right for the visitors, it was befitting that the final goal at the 67 minute mark involved a role reversal. Instead of repeating the tradition of Donovan assisting goal-scoring Edson Buddle, it was the other way around.
Buddle wanted to show that he could function as an assist player while Donovan hungered for his first goal of the season, and so it went.
With Donovan enjoying such a brilliant early campaign in leading the Galaxy to a lofty 7-0-1 mark, opposing coaches and players will be counting the days until they receive a break. Donovan will be performing in World Cup competition, and they will be relieved of facing him during that interval.
Here is a Galaxy team that has lost the game’s most famous star in David Beckham, now seen from the front row of Laker home games at Staples Center, for the season, but has seen the talented tandem of Donovan and Buddle push them to soaring heights.
Last season the Galaxy reached the final round of the MLS Cup but lost to Real Salt Lake. If such competition were to occur next week the L.A. team would be the odds on favorite to prevail.
What is it tactically that is so impressive about the Galaxy? Here is a club that wastes no motion. There is not a lot of passing. Instead what one sees is a blinding bullet assist from Donovan and an equally swift score, achieved most frequently (but not in this contest) from Buddle.
This is a quick-strike offense that puts points on the board in a blinking eye.
As for the Sounders, now 2-3-3 with 9 points, an occasion of future promise occurred when highly touted, newly signed, 18-year-old Colombian Miguel Montano saw his first action as a Sounder as a substitute for Fredy Montero at the 58 minute mark.
Montano handled himself well, showed good foot speed, and looked comfortable in an MLS venue. He demonstrated future promise as a quick striker.
The Sounders have run up against a tough part of the schedule with two out of the three matches out of the way—back-to-back home encounters against Columbus Crew and L.A. Galaxy.
Next week provides a tough road test against the East’s leading team, the surprising New York Red Bulls, who in week two handed the Sounders a 1-0 defeat.